Friday, April 27, 2012

What Will You Give Up to Save the World?

This has been coming for years.   Science is speaking out.  It's time to redistribute the wealth, globally.

The world's most renowned population analyst has called for a massive reduction in the number of humans and for natural resources to be redistributed from the rich to the poor.

Paul Ehrlich, Bing professor of population studies at Stanford University in California and author of the best-selling Population Bomb book in 1968, goes much further than the Royal Society in London which this morning said that physical numbers were as important as the amount of natural resources consumed.

The optimum population of Earth – enough to guarantee the minimal physical ingredients of a decent life to everyone – was 1.5 to 2 billion people rather than the 7 billion who are alive today or the 9 billion expected in 2050, said Ehrlich in an interview with the Guardian.

"How many you support depends on lifestyles. We came up with 1.5 to 2 billion because you can have big active cities and wilderness. If you want a battery chicken world where everyone has minimum space and food and everyone is kept just about alive you might be able to support in the long term about 4 or 5 billion people. But you already have 7 billion. So we have to humanely and as rapidly as possible move to population shrinkage."

"The question is: can you go over the top without a disaster, like a worldwide plague or a nuclear war between India and Pakistan? If we go on at the pace we are there's going to be various forms of disaster. Some maybe slow motion disasters like people getting more and more hungry, or catastrophic disasters because the more people you have the greater the chance of some weird virus transferring from animal to human populations, there could be a vast die-off."

 "Most of the predictions [in Population Bomb] have proved correct. At that time I wrote about climate change. We did not know then if it was warming or cooling. We thought it was going to be a problem for the end of this century. Now we know it's warming and a problem for the beginning of the century; we didn't know about the loss of biodiversity. Things have been coming up worse than was predicted. We have the threats now of vast epidemics".

"I have a grim view of what is likely to happen to my children and grandchildren. Politicians can control the financial mess we are in but they don't have control over the systems of the planet that provide us our food, our welfare, those are deteriorating and it will take us a long time to turn it around if we start now. It's hard to think of anything that will pop up and save us. I hope something will but it really will be a miracle."

"We have too much consumption among the rich and too little among the poor. That implies that terrible thing that we are going to have to do which is to somehow redistribute access to resources away from the rich to the poor. But in the US we have been doing the opposite. The Republican party is wildly in favour of more redistribution, of taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich."


LeDaro said...

Mound, on the subject of Maple Leaf I did it a bit differently. I hope it is ok.

I wanted Harper's name included.

Anonymous said...

I think (meaning this is opinion), that our population is not the problem, it is the greed. We do need to adjust the way we live our lives. The rich need to pay more, the middle class needs to waste less and share more, and we need to bring people out of poverty. We waste on a massive scale, most people don't even think about it, and if pointed out don't care or are upset it was pointed out. People do feel too entitled. And I'm not speaking like a whack right winger... People are entitled to a fair wage so they can feed and house their families. And to a secure retirement, and education and health care. But we shouldn't be wasting on every new version of the ipod, ipad, and iphone. We don't need new tv's and cars every year. We also need to plan our cities better, we shouldn't be wasting the energy to commute people an hour to and from work everyday, or for buildings that sit epty 60% of the time. We need to change things, but people are stubborn and set in their ways. We should also stop spending and wasting so much on wars to kill people.

The Mound of Sound said...

These days you're not speaking like a right-winger at all, Anon. You're much closer to the way right-wingers like Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln spoke and wrote.

As I read your comment I was struck with the enormity of this issue, the inertia that would have to be overcome to effect any meaningful redistribution. There are forces of change of that magnitude but they're not forces that mankind controls. They are change that will eventually be forced upon us.

For us to implement changes of this order would require a near total reformation of society - economically, culturally, even politically. We would have to decouple our established equivalency between wealth and virtue, our belief that because we can have something, we must.

I suppose it might begin with a general acceptance that when we consume too much, someone else who is in dire straits, must do without. Britain is a classic example. Britons consume their country's entire annual production of foodstuffs by about Easter every year. For the balance of the year they make do with imported foods. In a food-scarce, water-scarce world, that means, at the end of the day, taking food from those who lack food and their 'virtual water' also (water resources used in growing food exports). Brits can do this because their purchasing power is adequate to give them priority. How does one decouple that?

With just a handful of exceptions (Canada is one), wealthy nations consume far more than they produce and, in some cases, far more than they're capable of producing. And they're all locked into the utterly visionless economic model of "growth." Today that's Thelma & Louise thinking.

kootcoot said...

If people would learn, as I have, that it is much more important to value what you do, what you think and what you create than what you own, it would go a long way towards correcting the foul and destructive way most of the world is living.

Anyong said... are so there. Unlike Donald Trump who is now in Scotland about to sue the government over wind turbines blocking people's view while they golf on his golf course.

The Mound of Sound said...

Yes Anyong, the Trump mentality is utterly antithetical to the welfare of our species and other life through the 21st century.

At some point over the next three to four decades we will abandon what I like to call "18th century economics, 19th century industrialism and 20th century geopolitics" because their residual utility will become exhausted. The real challenge will be finding consensus to craft viable, peaceful and cooperative replacements.

Anonymous said...

I didn't communicate what I meant properly, most of it I did, and am in agreement with you. The part I didn't communicate was when I mentioned entitlements and right wingers... I was just trying to clarify that my statement that people are too entitled (to things), does not mean I agree with the right wings attack on entitlements such as secure retirement, education, and healthcare.

These rich right wingers who think society owes them so much... I wonder how they would be doing without society helping them out and allowing them to take advantage?

VULT CULT said...

"At some point over the next three to four decades we will abandon what I like to call "18th century economics, 19th century industrialism and 20th century geopolitics"

Exactly. We as a species on this planet cannot rely on the very processes of the last 2-3 thousand years that got us and our planet into this mess.

I don't know what the broader solutions are (let alone how to implement them) but I think we need to first get everyone on the same page and understand the nature of the problem and fast.

That means reaching the vast majority of people on a large but quick scale, and - most importantly - getting to understand the gravity of the coming future. Driving collective alignment for the benefit of all is the only defense we as a species have to prevent our eventual extinction, and our planet's permanent demise.

The Mound of Sound said...

Achieving an effective level of public awareness is indeed critical and an enormous challenge made harder by the vested interests that will block these efforts at every turn.

Getting beyond that, however, will be far more problematical. I have trouble seeing any search for solutions that can be neatly packaged when there are myriad problems that weave through multiple levels and dictate solutions that operate viably on individual, societal, national and international strata. Talk about herding cats.

Redistribution from the haves to have-nots demands a degree of altruism of which our species has no experience. Time is not on our side when it comes to reaching this level of enlightenment. It's probably a far safer bet that we would back ourselves into wars before we agreed to the sort of redistribution being advocated. Remember, it's the haves that just happen to have the most and biggest guns and the demonstrated propensity to use them.

Bear in mind that we are already quietly casting the have-nots as challenges and threats. We begrudge doing much for them and that resentment can be easily harnessed to become outright hostility.